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New Omicron Bivalent COVID-19 Booster: What is it? When should you get it?

Key Points

  • 2 new Omicron vaccine boosters are now available
  • The updated COVID-19 boosters are bivalent: they target the Omicron subvariants and original SARS-CoV-2, including BA.4 and BA.5
  • A surge in COVID-19 cases are expected in the Fall, so the CDC encourages everyone to get their shots as soon as they are eligible
  • We are entering the typical influenza season and it is not clear how challenging that will be for our health system at this point

On August 31st, 2022, the US FDA authorized new single-dose booster shots for COVID-19, targeting the Omicron subvariants. A day later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the use of these boosters.

The release of these vaccines is well-timed. While many may feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is on its last leg, we are not done with the virus itself. As Fall sets in and the weather gets colder, experts predict a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Naturally, you may be looking for more information before making up your mind. Read on to learn what makes the new Omicron boosters different from previous vaccines, who is eligible to get them, are they safe, and when is the best time to get them.

New Omicron Bivalent COVID-19 Booster: What is it? When should you get it?

Key Points

  • 2 new Omicron vaccine boosters are now available
  • The updated COVID-19 boosters are bivalent: they target the Omicron subvariants and original SARS-CoV-2, including BA.4 and BA.5
  • A surge in COVID-19 cases are expected in the Fall, so the CDC encourages everyone to get their shots as soon as they are eligible
  • We are entering the typical influenza season and it is not clear how challenging that will be for our health system at this point

On August 31st, 2022, the US FDA authorized new single-dose booster shots for COVID-19, targeting the Omicron subvariants. A day later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the use of these boosters.

The release of these vaccines is well-timed. While many may feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is on its last leg, we are not done with the virus itself. As Fall sets in and the weather gets colder, experts predict a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Naturally, you may be looking for more information before making up your mind. Read on to learn what makes the new Omicron boosters different from previous vaccines, who is eligible to get them, are they safe, and when is the best time to get them.

What are the new Omicron vaccine boosters?

On August 31st, 2022, the FDA authorized two new single-dose vaccine boosters. These two vaccines are bivalent vaccines. These ‘updated boosters’ (as the FDA refers to them) are meant to be a broader protection against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the newer Omicron variant and subvariants.

This update is significant since the FDA reports that Omicron subvariants like BA.5 and BA.4 are the dominant strains across the United States today. They predict that these two strains will continue to circulate in the fall and winter.

Who is eligible for the new booster shot?

The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that over 200 million Americans are eligible for a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster.

According to the FDA:

You are eligible for the Moderna single-dose booster shot if:

  • You are over the age of 18 and
  • if it has been at least two months after your primary vaccination doses or
  • If it has been at least two months after a recent booster dose with an authorized monovalent COVID-19 vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech single-dose booster shot is approved for:

  • Individuals 12 years and older, and
  • If it has been at least two months after your primary vaccination doses, or
  • If it has been at least two months after a recent booster dose with an authorized monovalent COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC notes that they expect to recommend these updated boosters for other pediatric groups as well by mid-October.

When should you get the booster? Should you “time it” for the holidays?

The CDC recommends getting the vaccine at least 2 months after your last vaccine shot or 3 months after your last COVID-19 infection. It takes two weeks for the shots to be fully active. The CDC Director advised, “If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

In a press release, the FDA Commissioner stated, “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.”

However, some people are wondering if it may be a good idea to time their boosters for the holiday season. Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Solv, explains, “COVID-19 cases are expected to rise even before the holiday season. So, to minimize your risk, you may consider getting the booster sooner than later. People with compromised immune systems due to illness, medication, or other factors are at a much higher risk. In these cases, I advise a discussion with your provider about what is right for you.”

To help you decide, Solv can help you get a same-day appointment with a healthcare provider near you.

Is it safe to get the new Omicron booster?

The FDA and the CDC believe in the safety of these bivalent vaccine boosters.

According to a statement by the CDC Director, “The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion.”

Peter Marks, MD, PHD, the Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research indicated, “We have worked closely with the vaccine manufacturers to ensure the development of these updated boosters was done safely and efficiently. The FDA has extensive experience with strain changes for annual influenza vaccines. We are confident in the evidence supporting these authorizations.”

He added, “The public can be assured that a great deal of care has been taken by the FDA to ensure that these bivalent COVID-19 vaccines meet our rigorous safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality standards for emergency use authorization.”

What are the side effects of the bivalent boosters?

According to the FDA, reported side effects from people who received a bivalent vaccine dose during a study included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.

These side effects are similar to those reported with earlier vaccines and boosters; nothing different, according to the CDC.

Can you get the flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 booster?

The CDC says it is safe to get the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time. However, if someone is suspected to have COVID-19 or has a confirmed diagnosis, the CDC recommends deferring the flu vaccine until after they recover from the illness.

Solv is a convenient way to schedule your COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, and flu shots. Book same-day appointments for you and your kids.

Does your booster have to be from the same manufacturer as your previous vaccinations?

No, you can mix and match. The FDA notes that you can get a bivalent booster from a different manufacturer. If your primary vaccines were by Moderna, it is safe to get the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster, and the reverse is true as well.

Disclaimers

The content provided here and elsewhere on the Solv Health site or mobile app is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as, and Solv Health, Inc. does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always contact your healthcare provider directly with any questions you may have regarding your health or specific medical advice.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Solv Health and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Solv Health only to confirm educational value and reader interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with your healthcare provider.


Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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